Get lost Tom-Tom

When learning The Knowledge, maps were indispensable. A huge A-Z was pinned to the wall, enabling one to pin two places and running a cotton between them to find the shortest route. A pocket-sized Collins Superscale, with its vast index, was essential when riding around London. I even possessed a map which showed every illegal left and right turn, and another with famous buildings drawn upon it at the appropriate spot.

[S]O IT WAS WITH CONCERN I recently heard of a current Knowledge boy using today’s technology upon his scooter. He proudly displayed a compass the size of an orange, a traditional Knowledge board, an iPhone running Memory Map, multiple action camera points, a global tracker linked to his Mac back home and a 12inch iPad Pro in the back box.

So what’s wrong with using a SatNav to negotiate oneself around London? Well, everything apparently. We are particularly good at developing ‘mental maps’ of an area, which improve with use.

Research has found London cabbies had an enlarged hippocampus in the brain, developed from its excessive use is nothing new. In the 1940s, the psychologist Edward C. Tolman used rats in mazes to demonstrate that ‘learning consists not in stimulus-response connections but in the building up in the nervous system of sets which function like cognitive maps’.

When exploring an area, without a SatNav getting your attention, we perceive landmarks, remembering their position along the route and the spatial relationship between the streets. The brain stores this in the form of a mental map and has the ability to overlay each spatial map upon another, thereby giving the traveller confidence to find shortcuts, detours or just a favourite scenic route.

Julia Frankenstein of Darmstadt Technical University in Germany had 26 residents from Tübingen navigate a 3-dimensional model of their town wearing head-mounted displays. They were then asked to point to well-known locations not visible from their current position. Incredibly all participants were more accurate indicating the direction when facing north; the very start point on most maps, and were less accurate when facing further away from that direction.

In Japan walkers using GPS got to their destinations more slowly than those using a conventional paper map. The GPS users experienced a reduced sense of place. As humans we have to face the fact that mentally we are lazy, most would rather watch TV’s diet of drivel than engage in understanding a programme titled Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.

Our brain tries to decrease the amount of information being stored, which, of course, is the appeal of GPS. But surely it’s better to have an understanding of our place within the urban environment. Just around the corner could be an exquisite building just waiting to be explored, or a small green space to get solitude.

While others are looking at a blue dot superimposed upon a crude map on their phone, and because of the high buildings in the vicinity, it’s giving them an inaccurate signal telling them they are standing in the middle of the Thames when patiently they are standing in Trafalgar Square.

Maurice Cheepen

My father’s contribution to the war effort was to operate radar stations, monitoring incoming enemy aircraft, others found themselves slowly fighting their way across Europe.

For some, with a seemingly safer war, were hugely valuable in raising the morale of Londoners. Maurice Cheepen, a Jewish immigrant from Nazi Germany ‘did his bit’ in an extraordinary fashion.

[B]UILT ON THE SITE of an old brewery, at a cost of £250,000 (£17 million in today’s money), the Troxy Cinema on Commercial Road was the largest cinema in England.

The first film to be shown was King Kong, with the first customer entering its lavish foyer in 1933 being rewarded with a gold watch.

But it was Maurice Cheepen who ensured that ‘Stepney’s Luxurious Troxy’ was the most prestigious entertainment venue in East London. Poverty, the 1930s Depression and looming storm clouds, Eastenders needed someone like Maurice to lift them out of the gloom.

Maurice Cheepen

A horse-drawn pumpkin coach to advertise Cinderella; Dracula promoted by a vampire handing out leaflets; and ‘red Indians’ telling the local populace about the latest western, that’s how Maurice entertained them.

In the Blitz, with the audience trapped inside the Troxy during a bombing raid, Maurice led a rendition of “There’ll Always Be An England”. Later a wag retorted after a bomb landed nearby “I’m not sure about that!”

Naturalised in 1935 the London Gazette of 5th April 1935 reported:

LIST of ALIENS to whom Certificates of Naturalization have been granted by the Secretary of State, and whose Oaths of Allegiance have been registered in the Home Office during the month of March 1935. The date shown in each case is the date on which the Oath of Allegiance was taken.

Cheepen, Morris (known as Maurice Cheepen); No Nationality; Cinema Manager;

26 Rowhill Mansions, Clapton, E.5. 6th March 1935.

Maurice rewarded his adopted country with a plethora of entertainment goodies. One of his most outlandish stunts was dreamt up in 1952 when the film Where No Vultures Fly was about to be screened. Maurice had live vultures caged in the foyer, one ‘escaped’ and flew around the auditorium. Could Maurice have deliberately released the bird to promote the feature? We will never know.

In 1960 the last film was shown at the Troxy, by which time Maurice Cheepen had retired. The building became a bingo hall and a rehearsal studio, now restored to its former glory it is one of the finest venues in East London.

Featured image: Troxy, Commercial Road by Robin Sones (CC BY-SA 2.0)

London Trivia: Bevis Marks synagogue

On 24 June 1699 the oldest house of worship for Ashkenazi Jews got the go ahead, when a committee lead by Rabbi David Nieto leased land at Plough Yard in Bevis Marks from Lady Ann and Sir Thomas Payntz. Curiously the Bevis Marks synagogue was constructed by Joseph Avis – a Quaker. The building was necessitated by the considerable influx of jews into east London making the synagogue in Cree Street unsuitable.

On 24 June 1830 Peter James Bossy became the last person to stand in a London pillory, tried for perjury sentenced to transportation for 7 years, but prior to that having to stand in the pillory for one hour

The original indictment of notorious highwayman Dick Turpin (real name John Palmer) is held in the National Archives in Kew, Richmond

The Monument commemorating the Great Fire of London in 1666 is the tallest isolated stone column in the world. It rises to 202ft on Fish Hill, 202ft away from where the fire began in a bakery in Pudding Lane

A fragrance known as Madeleine was trialled at St. James Park, Euston, and Piccadilly stations in 2001, to make the Tube more pleasant, stopped within days after complaints from people saying they felt ill

On Sunday 24 June 1509 the Coronation of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon took place at Westminster Abbey

In Alfred Hitchcock’s first feature film The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927) featured the director making a cameo on the Tube

On 24 June 1963 saw the first demonstration of home video recorder at BBC Studios in London, using quarter inch tape it could record up to 20 minutes of low quality black and white television programmes

The earliest known account of sport in London was written in 1174 by William Fitzstepen, due to translation errors the game described is not apparent

London was the first city in the world to have a licensed taxi trade on 24 June 1654 the City of London authorised the use of 200 licenses

One City firm in the 1950s gave new employees a set of instructions including: ‘You will wear a bowler hat to and from the office’

On 24 June 1717 Premier Grand Lodge of England founded the Grand Lodge of London & Westminster latterly called the Grand Lodge of England

CabbieBlog-cab.gifTrivial Matter: London in 140 characters is taken from the daily Twitter feed @cabbieblog.
A guide to the symbols used here and source material can be found on the Trivial Matter page.

Down Your Alley: The Elys

Entering Ely Place through the imposing iron gateway with its beadle’s lodge, with its chimney perched above a window (and not through the secret door featured in the last post), at once tells you that this is a private road. It is a cul-de-sac that is still administered by appointed commissioners of the Crown.

The houses are of the Georgian period (18th century) and feature Robert Adam style doorways.
[U]NTIL AS RECENTLY as 1948 the beadle would nightly call the hour between 10 pm and 5 am with the one time familiar ‘past ten o’clock, all’s well’. Another ancient curiosity of Ely Place was that criminals could claim sanctuary from the police, but that is all history and those who commit crimes today are just as likely to be arrested in Ely Place as anywhere else.

The entrance to Ely Place

Strange as it may seem, this small plot of land, until quite recently, was not part of London at all but Cambridgeshire. The history begins in 1251 when a church was built on the site of the present church of St Etheldreda, on the west side of Ely Place. Some years later the property was purchased by John Kirkby just prior to him being consecrated Bishop of Ely in 1286. When he died in 1290 he left the building and surrounding grounds to the diocese of Ely (in Cambridgeshire). In those days it was the duty of bishops to sit regularly in Parliament and this meant that it was necessary to have accommodation nearby. The magnitude of their London houses usually depended on the personal wealth of the bishop and we must assume that the Bishops of Ely were fairly well endowed. William de Luda succeeded John Kirkby and it was he who built the present church. Later, in 1336, a vineyard and orchard covering seven acres were added. Towards the end of the 14th century, Bishop Arundell rebuilt part of the palace adding a gatehouse and a high wall to enclose the grounds. ‘In this house, for the large and commodious rooms thereof, divers great and solemn feasts have been kept, especially by the serjeants-at-the-law’. All that now remains of the Bishops’ Palace is the medieval chapel of St Etheldreda.

St Ethelreda’s Church

The church of St Etheldreda displays some of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in the whole of Western Europe. With the exception of Westminster Abbey, it is London’s only surviving building from the period of Edward I. The west window, when compared with the size of the building, is enormous; it was completed in 1964 and commemorates the English martyrs of the Tudor period. Scenes from the Old Testament are depicted in the windows on the south side and scenes from the New Testament in those on the north side. Also notable are the carved gorbels between these windows. A number of large statues are of local men and women who were martyred for their faith. The original doorway that separated the Chapel from the Bishops’ Palace is on the south-west side.

St Etheldreda’s suffered a great deal of damage and decay over the years but thankfully escaped the ravages of the Great Fire with minutes to spare. St Andrew’s, only yards away, was completely destroyed but a change of wind spelt reprieve for the Bishops’ old chapel.

During the Civil War of 1642, the buildings of Ely Place were used as a prison. It was finally sold to the Crown in 1772 when the London residence of the Bishops of Ely was transferred to the newly built Ely House at 37 Dover Street; this remained their official London residence until 1909.

Between numbers nine and ten, the narrow Ely Court leads to Ye Old Mitre Tavern. Notice the iron bar down the centre of the opening – it was placed there to prevent horse riders from entering the narrow passage.

To the multitudes, Ely Court is a quaint and narrow passageway, linking Hatton Garden with Ely Place has one main attraction – the enchanting Old Mitre Tavern. The first tavern on this site was built in 1546 by Bishop Goodrich, Bishop of Ely, for the enjoyment of his Palace servants. The present building is of the 18th century.

Ely Court, Ye Olde Mitre

Apart from the Bishops of Ely, there was another character featured prominently in the history of this area – he was Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor to Elizabeth I. At the time of the Queen’s first acquaintance with Christopher Hatton, he held the position of Master of the Game at the Inner Temple. They met at a theatrical performance staged at Whitehall in which Hatton played a leading part, attracting the Queen’s attention by his graceful dancing. From that time he became a great favourite of her majesty and in 1577 was appointed Vice-Chamberlain, and in 1587 Lord Keeper of the Great Seal – called by Elizabeth, her ‘dancing Chancellor’. They engaged in frequent meetings, and in the House of Commons, he was the Queen’s spokesman, expressing her approvals and dissension’s.

When it occurred to Sir Christopher Hatton that he should reside in a mansion fitting of his position, he set his sights on the magnificent Ely House, London home of the Bishop of Ely. At the Queen’s insistence, Bishop Cox was persuaded to lease his gatehouse and fourteen acres of land to Hatton. To please her the Bishop, without question, agreed to a lease of twenty-one years at a yearly rent of £10 plus ten loads of hay and one red rose.

Once established in his ill-gotten gain, Hatton spent a great deal of money on additions and renovations to the property and land – money borrowed from his royal mistress. Both parties had use of the gardens but after a disagreement concerning the actual boundary of the part included in the lease, a cherry tree was planted to mark the division. It is said that Queen Elizabeth once danced the maypole around the tree during one of her many visits to Hatton. If you look in the corner of the bar-parlour of the Mitre Tavern you will see, what is reputed to be, a preserved chunk of that very tree.

As time passed, the Queen put so much pressure on Hatton to repay the money that he suffered sleepless nights and became ill. She later visited him and quite evidently her dominance caused a worsening of his condition. He died still owing £40,000, a debt that the Queen never forgot. Bishop Cox was obliged to inherit the liability but when he died his successor, Bishop Heton, refused to honour the agreement. He was ordered to comply or he would be dismissed from his position and defrocked. The characteristic letter from Elizabeth laid firmly before him the terms of her demand: ‘Proud Prelate! I understand you are backward in complying with your agreement: but I would have you know that I, who made you what you are, can unmake you; and if you do not forthwith fulfil your engagement, by God I will immediately unfrock you.’ – He presumably paid up.

The Mitre is a charming old pub with an atmosphere reminiscent of a country inn. The walls, covered in oak panelling, are adorned with pictures associated with Ely Court and Place. There are two small rooms and a smaller ante-room called The Closet and, be warned, it gets very busy, particularly at lunchtime and early evening.

One point to ponder on when visiting the Mitre is – How on earth did the large table get there since it is too large to pass through the door? Some say the pub was built around it. But there remains the riddle.

Featured images:
Ye Olde Mitre by Mike Quinn (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The entrance to Ely Place by Marathon (CC BY-SA 2.0)
St Ethelreda’s Church by Neil Theasby (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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CabbieBlog-cabMuch of the original source material for Down Your Alley has been derived from Ivor Hoole’s GeoCities website. The site is now defunct and it is believed Ivor is no more. Thankfully much of Ivor’s work has been archived by Ian Visits and Phil Gyford.